For a lot of kids born between 1990 and 1995ish, creating a Nexopia account was how we experimented with social media identity before Facebook.
Nexopia was a basic program. You could do little more than post photos and interact in a rudimentary way, and it became a public scrapbook for scene kids. If you were more into Word art, there was Piczo. Nexopia users abandoned their profiles around 2007-2008, which is about the same time people, at least in Canada, joined Facebook.
Facebook’s user interface was better and people were (a bit) more mature. Facebook’s appeal, especially as we grew up with it, was the progressive steps it took to improve its experience. On what felt like Christmas mornings, Facebook introduced messenger, newsfeeds, cover photos, groups, timelines, videos, livestreaming, and all its other weird stuff.
Eventually, a simple personal profile program morphed into an online extension of one’s identity that offers elaborate and intricate means of expressing the self, which at its most extreme, brings selfhood into question. Presenting your personality, fashion, and lifestyle aren’t limited to people walking by – they can be extended to an audience as large as anyone is willing to put the work into. Facebook succeeded not because they sold you a product – they sold you to the world.
(This is the paragraph about how Facebook changed media and how it affects me personally.) As it became possible to post a variety of formats onto newsfeeds, media’s old school ad and writing models were greatly changed, if not transformed completely, to the extent that social media had a significant effect on the last U.S. election. Maybe I’m biased because my job is to make the transition, but this medium shift from print to v a p o r s p a c e is truly amazing. Also, don’t get hooked on media-as-a-profession drugs unless you have a hard head and a good stomach. (End of paragraph.)
Despite Facebook’s good features, scrolling though your feed for five minutes shows Facebook’s downsides. Maybe I’ve Facebooked wrong for almost nine years, which would be a hilarious and miserable waste of youth, but unlike what seems to be TV’s standard content-to-ads ratio (I’m guessing 75 per cent to 25 per cent), my feed is 75 per cent dumb shit and 25 per cent stuff I remotely care about (but wouldn’t necessarily click on. Actually probably wouldn’t click on). Ads, random articles, people embarrassing themselves, banal, and cringeworthy shit, the crevices and canyons of Uncle Trump’s scrotum face burn my eyes everyday. And if The Gateway is guilty of the aforementioned, we’ll do reader surveys soon. Or start volunteering and changing things around here.
Being an adult means being efficient. You limit daily annoyances (so you don’t commit murder), you limit your circle of friends (so they don’t murder you), and the desire to experiment and try new things disappears like the month’s paycheque. Facebook and its development into great social media were exciting for our generation growing up, but rather than expanding, I don’t see why people won’t unlike and unfollow much of what they found exciting about Facebook in the first place. When people are dedicated to a few news sites, reddit threads, YouTube channels, when they use email for work-based stuff and Slack for internal work-based stuff (unless the Editor-in-Chief is scared of it. I’m sorry Mitch), and when people text, talk on the phone, and mail family photos to each other to stick on the fridge, Facebook is irrelevant. And spending copious amounts of time on it is odd. Unless it’s your job, what do 25-year-olds with jobs even do with Facebook?
It’ll be interesting to see what Facebook does. It could be that it’s just reached its critical mass of popularity and people like it enough (and aren’t willing to give up their social status displayed by the number of “friends” they “have”) that people won’t leave even though they’re bored of it.
I obviously sound like an old man, but once you have to remember what your significant other said, what your boss said, what the landlord said, how you have to file taxes, how many beers you had, where the hospital is, and where your pants are, it won’t only be your Nexopia password that you’ll forget.